Krokus Interview (Chris Von Rohr)

"We have Bon Scott"

13/03/2013 @ 15:22
There is no doubt that Krokus is among the most important and successful hard rock bands in the last 35 years. After their dymanic comeback with the "Hoohoo" album in 2010, their brand new "Dirty Dynamite" proves that the Swiss rockers are again on the right track. Their founder, bassist and producer, Chris Von Rohr, speaks about the new album and the comparison between Krokus and AC/DC, denotes his love for Greece and appeals to the local promoters about binging Krokus to play live in our country just for what it costs.

Hello Chris, it’s Theodore from How are you?
Hello, hello, where is the warm weather my man? It’s Chris Von Rohr and I’m looking forward to talk to you, because I am a big fan of your country. Up here we are always below zero degrees, so after a certain time everybody gets sick from time to time a little bit, but the overall feeling is very good because of two things: The album reached at number one spot here in our country just off the release and the spring time is not far away. These are two reasons to feel good.

KrokusLet’s talk first about your new album: It’s ready, it’s out, it’s called “Dirty Dynamite” and finds Krokus with Mandy Meyer in, but Freddy Steady out. What is the contribution of Mandy Meyer to the album and what about the drummer, since you don’t have a permanent member as a drummer right now?
First of all about Mandy Mayer: we wanted back the flavor we had during “Metal Rendez-vous” and “Hardware”, a guy who plays kind of more melancholic, minor. We have songs like for example “Winning Man”, “Screaming In The Night”, “Fire”, more dramatic songs, which are not the AC/DC style, but more our own style. There are about ten songs like this. We liked to add somebody in the band, because Fernando is covering the Chuck Berry, AC/DC traditional rock ‘n’ roll style, that’s what he’s scoring up and Mandy who played already two times in the band by the way covers up the more, yet the more dramatic, melancholic, maybe modern style if you wanna call it like that. So that’s why we did the move and instead of dropping one guitar player, we just added one. So, that means first of all that the band gets younger, secondly, it’s the best of our version and the fans are gonna hear live, especially live, the best Krokus ever. That’s for sure. We already checked it out in Germany, at the Knockout Festival. Now to the drummer: Freddy Steady didn’t play on “Hoodoo”, the last album. It was Kenny Aronoff who played that. That’s the famous drummer from America who plays with John Fogerty, Chickenfoot, etc. We had Kosta Zafiriou, a Greek drummer, the last two years, the guy who plays with Pink Cream 69 and Unisonic, that’s the drummer of this band. So we played with him because Freddy was just not energetic for what we want, because no instrument in rock ‘n’ roll has changed that drastically the last 30 years like drums. If you look bands like Ozzy, Whitesnake, Scorpions, whoever, they have this absolute energetic drums in the back live and we wanted something like that. That’s why we changed and now, what we do now, when we were in Germany, as I said at the Knock Out Festival, we met with Daniel Loble who is the drummer of Helloween and he’s gonna join the band. We wanted something a-class, we wanted for this next round definitely to make the band a gigantic step forward, especially on the live level to show the people. It’s like the old Buffalo Bill who came on the first tours. He always brought the first Indian with him. You have to do something, otherwise it gets boring.   

Krokus - Dirty DynamiteAbout the cover art now, what does the Old English bulldog represent?
First of all, I wrote a book which you don’t know because it’s not in Greek language unfortunately. It’s called “Dogs Must Rock Forever”. For us, we all feel like rock dogs, like young rock dogs in the stage. But for a change, instead of the dead head or something which is always used, we wanted to bring something which was never in this form on an album cover ever. So we came up with the idea of this bulldog which has a certain, almost Greek philosophical way of looking, which is very cool, which is kind of “I don’t give a shit whatever happens in this world as long as I have some food in my plate”. So we came up with that picture, which we all really like. In Switzerland and Germany the artwork is already a cult cover almost. Like it used to be the Pink Floyd cover with the cow on it. So, we are very very happy with the artwork because this dog is really kicking some ass and there are already some cover stories about how it lives because it is a real dog, just a little bit computer animated. But the dog is really existing. So, we are training it a little bit to bring the sticks to the drummer on stage. We are very happy about the cover art.

KrokusAs it happened on your previous album, “Hoodoo”, you were the producer of the new album. How you got involved with the production of Krokus?
I did many other successful productions, for example Gotthard and I already produced in the early days with Krokus, many albums in the preproduction with different producers, so I started to get interested in this whole thing. And as Fernando or Mark says “Chris knows best what is good for the band and for the fans, what they wanna listen”. I grew up into that job and I like the job. I think it’s probably the most Krokus if I’m doing this, because I’m a part of the band too. We had our experiences with exterior producers and most of them were not as good as we expected, so the band decided to go with me.

I think you did a great job there.
Thank you, thank you.  

Krokus“Dirty Dynamite” was partially recorded in the famous Abbey Road Studios. I think the vocals and your bass lines.
Yeah, and some guitars too. You don’t do a step like this just for technical reasons, because you can record in any studio, even in Switzerland and have no problem you know, even if you hear some cowbell spingeling! The decision was for me as a producer to give to the vocalist and the guitarist some special feel, some emotion. If you go now to this Abbey Road Studio, there is nothing renovated there, it’s still like it used to be in the sixties. That means you feel like a cabinet or an amp of Keith Richards, you have all the microphones of John Lennon, Ringo Starr, whoever and on one corner you find the water-pipe of Yoko-Ono. So, you go in the history, very-very thrilling, absolutely the biggest studio in the world and this puts you in a position that you have to give 120%, there’s no way you don’t do that. I mean you are there and you don’t wanna fuck up and you really give everything. I wanted me as a producer to use that energy for that album because music has to do with emotion. When you are in a space like this there is an extra emotion you cannot get in Switzerland or anywhere else probably.

KrokusIt’s a part of rock ‘n’ roll history.
It’s a part of rock ‘n’ roll history and only about 3,000 meters away is the Hammersmith Odeon Theatre where Krokus started their international career years ago. A very emotional place, but it was also a great summer. I’ll never forget it, for me as a producer as well, it was the highlight of my whole career.

As there are covers on many of your albums, you did a cover of The Beatles’ “Help”, in the vein I think of the “Help” cover that is on Deep Purple’s “Shades Of Deep Purple” album, more slow and dramatic.
Absolutely, you are very informed and I’m glad because most of the people don’t know that, but in ’68 the Deep Purple brought out their first album. On that albums there are two covers: “Help” and “Hush”.

KrokusAnd “Hey Joe” and “I’m Glad” too!
Yeah, yeah! I always liked this version of first Deep Purple, but the singer was not really happening, so they changed the singer and later Ian Gillan came. So we thought “hey, nobody knows this song, nobody really knows this slow down version”. If you do a cover, it’s very important that you can give the cover your own touch, so you can say in the end “this is Krokus”. I think I’m very happy and it’s gonna be out as the second single of “Dirty Dynamite”. I’m very happy we did it because it’s a great song, great lyrics, which is absolutely for us to the point. “When I was younger, so much younger than today, I never needed anybody’s help in any way”. It’s a great song, so we did it and I’m glad that we did. I hope you like it too.

KrokusYes, very much. Let’s talk a little about the differences between “Dirty Dynamite” and your previous records, the more recent records you did.
Ok. I think there is a big difference between this album and “Hoodoo”, which went #9 in the Greek Charts which was freaking me out by the way because I go every year to Crete, my friend Dimitris and his friends out there were freaking too, it was really an unbelievably great experience, I hope we can do something similar this time. The difference is that we played much more together this time. It’s a little bit harder, more Krokus, I think we spent more than a year and thousands of hours to do the “Dirty Dynamite” album. So it’s much more worked, experienced in this new round and I hope you hear it and the fans gonna hear it too, because it’s more a young piece, it’s not that pieced together like other schemes. We took much more time in that album, that’s the fact.

There’s a question that you have probably hear and answer a million times. What is your comment about the comparison between Krokus and AC/DC and all those who criticize Krokus for being just an AC/DC replica band?
First of all, it’s a big compliment, because it’s my favorite rock ‘n’ roll band first of all. Second of all, WE have Bon Scott, you know what I mean. We have with us Marc Storace, the singer who blows everything away, that’s it. If you come and see him live and you don’t know the albums, how this guy is singing, or what the Rolling Stone magazine wrote, “he seems to come out of the same mother like Bon Scott”. So, that’s already great and we take it as a compliment. Then I say to all those people “ok, you’re right but there is the other side of Krokus which AC/DC would never do”. That’s the ballad side like “Help. Even the title song, “Dirty Dynamite”, I don’t know, this doesn’t sound like AC/DC and I could name you now twenty other songs which have nothing to do like “Tokyo Nights”, “Fire”, “Easy Rocker” and all that which are typical Krokus songs. So we have these two sides and I really like the mixture, but there is no doubt we are the next best thing to AC/DC. That’s it and we love it.

KrokusI would say that maybe it’s easy to cover or play like AC/DC but very, very hard to touch their straight rock ‘n’ roll feeling.
Exactly. There is a Swedish journalist who told me that the last album of AC/DC would need a couple of songs like we have here on “Dirty Dynamite”, because the last album was a little on the thin side. Or the British journalist who said that “Long Stick Goes Boom”, a song of ours, is the best riff AC/DC never wrote. I think we are on a good competition. Of course you cannot replace Angus Young, Angus Young is Angus Young, but on the album I get a lot of mails of people saying “hey, I wish AC/DC would kick ass as on your last album”. I think that as long as we make songs which are our own songs, then I have no problem if they fall in the AC/DC style. There are some other bands, like for example this Australian band Airbourne who are missing the good songs.  They are not A-class, they miss the good songs and we here, we’re having some cult songs. You don’t need to tell you that, you know our work all the years. There are some great songs which came out from Krokus, right?

Chris Von Rohr (Krokus)Yeah, absolutely. I think you had many ups and many downs in your career. Which are in your opinion the best thing and the worst thing?
This sounds maybe crazy, but the best things were when I was in the band. Sorry to say that open, but I was in this band, first of all founding the band, then I was in the band with “Metal Rendez-vous”, “Hardware”, “One Vice At A Time” and  “Headhunter”. Then I was out of the band, kicked out, they thought they could do it better. It was not the case, it was on a downfall, the whole thing went down, down, down, down, down, down… And when I came back, I tried to come up with the quality again, with the “Hoodoo” and now with the “Dirty Dynamite”. In between, there was an album called ”Heart Attack”, which I was back again, but then it was too late, the band was so destroyed that I couldn’t save much more. Βut I can say these six or seven albums are probably, as spoken by the fans, the most Krokus and the best albums that we did, because there is a chemistry between Fernando, me and Marc, which is just necessary to get the full rainbow of Krokus. So that’s how I see it, but it was a big, big chance to be almost twenty years out of the band, to establish myself as a producer and learn a lot of other things in life. I had my own TV show and wrote three books. It was interesting, but now fortunately we can rock again together and I think that’s really not exaggerated that to tell you. If you come and see the band now live - we’re gonna play the biggest festivals in Europe, the Hellfest in France, the Sweden Rock and big fests in Germany - if you come to see the band you’ll see the best band ever because it’s just like this. We are very happy to not be considered as an old fart band that goes between golf lessons and massages tables, we give a little kick on the young bands’ ass, I promise that.

KrokusI think that your first breakthrough was in 1980. How was to get to play in the U.S. as a young band from Switzerland?
It was absolutely great, but it was even greater first to conquer England, because that’s for us the country of rock ‘n’ roll in the first place. So, I think that it was incredible to play with all the bands, all your heroes, be on the road and then go to America and get some golden platinum albums there. That’s the biggest you can expect in life. There is not much more to add to this.

KrokusDo you have any plans of an extensive touring in support of “Dirty Dynamite” and visiting Greece maybe this summer or sometime in 2013?
I’ll tell you the truth, a big wish would be to play in your country. Please tell the promoters to contact us. We wanna play in Greece, we never did. We played in Japan, we played in Russia, all over the planet, but we never played Greece. (note: Krokus have played in Greece without Chris in 2007)To come to your country, that would be really great. Just tell them we wanna rock Greece, especially because there are so many difficulties in your country. I understand bad management, bad estate, bad everything, so I think it would be upward to come there and it’s not about the money, we would come and play for just what it costs to come over and do the gig, because I love the spirit, I love the philosophies, I love your country. That’s what I can say and I hope it’s gonna happen one day.

Thank you very much Chris, it was a real pleasure and honor for me to talk with you.
And for me too. Thank you for your time.